The fact that manganese is not a well-known metal outside of the steel, aluminum and battery industry in North America is hardly surprising — after all there has been no domestic manganese production in several decades.
Nonetheless, manganese is far from being an obscure metal with little importance – in fact there’s a good chance you use it every day, as it is contained in your car, cell phones, bridges, staples, household appliances – and virtually every item that has a steel component. Twenty pounds of manganese is required to make one ton of steel, and it is the fourth largest traded metal commodity in the world. There is no substitution of manganese in the manufacture of steel – without it you end up with a brittle iron product with no ductility or strength.
a) China controls the production of EMM at more than 98% of world production;
b) The free world requires 30% of that production; and
c) China is consolidating EMM production for internal consumption, and is expected to be a net importer by 2018.
In light of these factors, the National Research Council of the National Academies considers manganese the second most critical metal (out of thirteen) of potential concern to the U.S. economy. Media coverage would have you believe otherwise – but our critical mineral needs stretch well beyond rare earths, and manganese is a case in point.